Home PodcastJulie Alli #ZumaUnrest: Riots further compromise S. Africa’s already-crippled healthcare system after medical facilities looted

#ZumaUnrest: Riots further compromise S. Africa’s already-crippled healthcare system after medical facilities looted

by Umamah Bakharia

Salaamedia’s Julie Allie spoke to Soweto-based optometrist Shakeel Essa and SAMNET chairperson and a Durban-based private practitioner Dr. Faisal Suliman after rioters looted their practices. 

Optometrist Shakeel Essa never expected the destruction that took place at his practice in Diepkloof, Soweto, earlier this week after riots broke out. [Picture: Supplied]


DURBAN / JOHANNESBURG – The severe anarchy that has unfolded in parts of South Africa over the past week, over the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma, has reduced much of the critical infrastructure in South Africa’s Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal to trash – including healthcare facilities.

Shakeel Essa, who operated his practice in Diepkloof, Soweto, for a number of years, said he did not expect the destruction that occurred in a riot earlier this week. He said: “The entire practice has been destroyed, it is a shock because we have been in Soweto for quite a few years and I was not expecting this”.

Even though the practice has a loyal client base that keeps him alert on protests or violence in the area, the situation was uncontrollable this time around.

Center management in the building where his practice used to operate urged employees to shutdown and leave before rioters could gain entry. However, the rioters forcefully entered the premises, looting and destroying all the shops before burning a part of the center.

Like many who have had to shut their businesses down, either temporarily or permanently, as a result of the destruction caused by rioters, Essa is concerned that his employees will be unemployed for now.


I worry for my employees because they won’t have a job now for a couple of months – Shakeel Essa, optometrist based in Diepkloof, Soweto

Essa and his team hope to get the practice up-and-running after they manage to heal from this traumatic experience. “It is heartbreaking, years of work have just been gone,” Essa said.

Sadly, Essa’s practice was not the only medical facility to have been torn by rioters.  Dr. Faisal Suliman’s private medical practice was also looted during the week. 


“This is a complete failure of law and order. This is anarchy,” he said.

According to Dr. Suliman, the riots appear to have been carefully orchestrated because there was first looting and then the “deliberate” torching of buildings. This has now caused a shortage of essential supplies, such as bread and fuel.

Dr. Faisal believes this is the result of the Government’s failure – not just the ANC, but other political parties who could have stopped it but have rather been encouraging this behaviour.

“Of course there is poverty and some of the looters might have been stealing for food but there were huge trucks that were parked outside these distribution places, and that is not looting for food,” he said.

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